Bucking Rainbow changes

Outfitters moving, Brookie's closing, Azteca hoping to stay

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— March has been a tumultuous month for Jim Ruggiero and Keith Hicks, partners in Azteca Taqueria.

First, they received assurance from their landlord their lease would be renewed, then they were informed their space in the Bucking Rainbow building in downtown Steamboat was being given to a new tenant.

The news allowed them less than a month to relocate their successful little restaurant. Finally, on Friday, Hicks learned he might not be losing his lease after all.

Whatever the case, changes are in store for the Bucking Rainbow Building at the corner of Fourth and Lincoln in downtown Steamboat. The building is owned by a Milwaukee, Wis., company, Magnetic North SB, LLC.

Friday was the last day Brookie's Kitchen and Asian Persuasion, both owned by Jan Levy, were serving lunches. Levy has her businesses for sale, but did not renew her lease, and shut the kitchen down at the end of the week.

John Duty, owner of Bucking Rainbow Outfitters, is moving his store to a new space at 729 Lincoln and taking the Bucking Rainbow name with him.

As recently as March 22, Ruggiero was reluctantly looking for a new space to rent.

He had no desire to give up the location that has been so good to him for three years, since he and Hicks opened up in July 1999.

"We're in negotiations for a space off Lincoln," Ruggerio said at the time.

"We love the space we're in now. Everything was working for us."

Ruggerio said the small space he leases in the building affords him strong sales on a per square foot basis. During a good week, he said, his restaurant pumps out 250 plates.

Azteca is known for its fresh ingredients they begin making their salsa by chopping tomatoes. But Ruggerio said those aren't the words he lives by.

"We want cheap, we want filling, we want fast," he said.

Ruggerio had anticipated that if he had to move his restaurant off Lincoln Avenue, he'd suffer a loss of walk-in traffic, and that he would probably begin delivery service to make up for the lost business.

Duty said he's been anticipating his move for years.

"We've been looking to move for a long time," Duty said. "We want to build foot traffic for our retail business. It's primarily for winter. We do great here in summer."

In a sense, Duty has two businesses in one. He books guided fly fishing and float trips. But he also sells outdoor clothing and outdoorsy home accessories in his shop. During the summer, the activities business drives customers up the stairs and into his retail shop. But it's another story in winter, he said.

"There are daily debates at the bottom of the stairs," Duty said. He literally hears potential customers comment that it looks like there is an interesting store upstairs, then other people in the party say their legs are too sore form skiing to trudge up the stairs.

"I hear them say, 'let's just get a burrito,'" downstairs and call it a day, Duty said.

During the winter, Duty theorizes, Steamboat visitors are less likely to explore the broader shopping district.

Instead, they congregate in the 700 and 800 blocks of Lincoln, spend their money, and return to their lodging.

Duty expects his new location, in the space being abandoned by Overland Sheepskin Company, will solve that.

"Hopefully, we'll be open in the new store by April 10," Duty said.

A spokesperson for Overland Sheepskin Company said the store was closing in spite of strong business this winter, but declined to elaborate.

Levy said her business was good, in fact, it was busier than she wanted, and she plans to lead a less hectic lifestyle.

She plans to remain in Steamboat.

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